This list originally started off with 22 common mistakes that new bloggers tend to make. But while writing the list, other mistakes I’d made – and corroborated by other bloggers – came back to memory.
No blogger makes all of these mistakes, of course, but the list serves to help those of you who are still establishing your name in the blogosphere, and to remind you that you’re not alone.
Design, Platform, Architecture, Hosting
- No banner/ header graphic. Having a header graphic on your blog gives you a brand, even if it’s simple. Not having one makes a page look odd and makes your site less memorable.
- Choosing a poor blogging platform. It’s important to choose the right platform. This will be hotly contested, but I believe the best blogging platform is WordPress. It’s readily available, has literally thousands of free themes, hundreds of plugins, and is available for automatic installation with most popular hosting plans.
- Poor blending of ads. I’ve seen evidence that even a targeted article in a high-CPC niche getting 3,000+ pageviews in a single day is no guarantee of getting high ad clicks. Especially if the ads on the page are poorly placed and/or not color-blended into the theme. (Keep in mind, too, that with some ad networks, high pageviews and no clicks reduces the CPC of those ads on your other sites – if you have others.)
- Poor hosting. Good content and poor hosting makes for negative results if you become popular. Think Digg effect: if someone submits your content to a popular voting site and the story goes popular, expect your site to crash if your hosting sucks.
- Using a really bad theme. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but there are some truly bad themes out there. Having a nice theme has a psychological effect on visitors and increases the quality of your blog – at least in a perceived sense.
- Cluttered themes. Keep your theme at least semi-attractive and uncluttered enough that it’s easy to find things – such feed subscription buttons.
- Not emphasizing your best content. Do what you have to highlight your best articles, including plugins to show the most popular posts, those with the most comments, links to similar posts, lists of recent posts, etc.
Of course, design isn’t everything. You’ve heard the saying “content is king”…
Content + Schedule
- Too personal. Unless there’s some lesson in your very personal discussions, don’t include them. John Chow gets away with restaurant reviews in his blog about making money online, but you won’t. If you want a diary blog, fine – but don’t expect to make money on it. If you want to discuss personal issues, structure your articles in terms of personal lessons, like Steve Pavlina does.
- Lack of topical focus. Even if you leave the personal stuff out, have you focused on a topic? What is your blog really about? Lack of focus confuses readers and does nothing to help you rank your site in search engines.
- Lack of keywords. Lack of appropriate keywords in the title and first paragraph, and lack of variations and synonyms in the rest of the article. Many new bloggers also start their first paragraph off as a single sentence, but with no keyword or keyphrase. This is “unfriendly” to RSS subscribers that view feeds in partial-text modes, and might lose you subscribers (if you get them in the first place due to poor intro paragraphs).
- Not linking out. Don’t do it. I mean, do it. Link out, give lots of link love, and be relevant with your anchor text and to wherever you’re linking.
- Not deep-linking. If you do use full-text feeds, beware the scrapers. You know they’re out there, sometimes grabbing your content mere minutes after you ping blog directories with a new article. Deep-linking all your articles at least provides a footprint suggesting that you’re the legitimate owner of the content – if it comes to that.
- Not posting regularly. There are two primary reasons that not posting regularly is “bad”. One is that readers lose patience when they don’t your schedule. (Not everyone uses an RSS reader.) The other reason is that search engine spiders often index your pages on a frequency proportional to your posting. The more you post, the more frequently you might get indexed, thus increasing the chances of search engine traffic. (Note that in some niches such as politics, you need to post 10-20 times per day to get noticed.) At the least, if you can’t post regularly, have a consistent schedule that’s obvious to your most loyal readers.
- Blogging about blogging. Believe me, it won’t make you any money. Not unless you have insights other bloggers don’t. In which case you’re not likely a newbie. Even Mr. Problogger Darren Rowse has said that Problogger makes less than his other blogs. (Though that was in late 2006; things may have changed since.)
- Blogging about the money. Sure, most of us bloggers want to/ are doing it professionally and want to earn. But don’t make it about the money.
- Recycling content. Okay, we all probably do it when we start. That’s okay, but it’s not okay for long – especially if you’re not adding any value to the overall discussion. You need to provide fresh information, which requires passion as the fuel for motivation. (Or is it the other way around?)
- Weak titles. Take the time to write stronger article titles.
- Ignoring linkbait. While a list of resources is useful in itself for both satisfying readers and building links, there are several types of linkbait. And you can linkbait nearly any niche.
- Weak linkbait. Writing a list doesn’t make the article a linkbait. A linkbait, by definition, needs to induce other bloggers/ webmasters to link back. (Each has their own reason.) One way to accomplish that is to share links to relevant articles in your list. A list with no outbound links is simply a list.
- Weak linkbait, part 2. If you use a “Top X Ways” type of title but don’t number your items, many readers will feel cheated. Don’t make them count; number your items. Similarly, Don’t say “Top X” and not deliver all X items in that article. Or at least link to an article that does offer that promised list.
- Ignoring grammar and spelling. You may not have the skills of Grammar Girl or be anal retentive about it like myself, but some semblance of professional writing furthers your blogging career.
- Starting too many blogs too soon. Even if you work 12-15 hour days all week, most people simply cannot maintain a dozen-plus (or whatever) blogs with any quality. Not even if you’re prolific and give you all your social obligations. And do you really want to give up your life to sit in a chair in front of computer day and night? There are more structured ways to start a blogging empire fi you’re a know-it-all.
- Being a know-it-all. So you’re smart and you’re interested in a lot of things. Good for you. If you want a blog for everything you know, use a different name. Or start off each blog one at a time and build, then hire other writers to continue them for you. You simply can’t blog so many topics well, on your own – especially if you plan to linkbait.
- Not enough variety. Readers like variety of content. Learn about the different types of posts that you can write while you’re still learning a niche.
- Irrelevant links. Linking to irrelevant sites from your blogroll/ navigation or articles in general is a bad idea. And not just because Google said so. Relevant links improve the reading experience.
Skills + Planning
- No long-term plan. Print magazine editors often know what sort of topics they’ll be covering a year from now. An editorial calendar may go a long way towards keeping your blog topics cohesive. It also allows you to devise a plan for increasing visitors, building links, etc., in advance.
- Not getting the proper training. You’re up against a lot of other bloggers – some good, some great. Do you know what you need to find your place in the blogosphere? Do you have those skills and training? Do you have the passion?
- Lacking passion. Picking a topic that you’re not passionate about is a mistake for two reasons. First, you cheat your readers. Second, you cheat yourself. Don’t deny yourself a topic you enjoy. If nothing comes to mind, think through it again. Or maybe you shouldn’t be blogging. Passion for a topic motivates you to give your best, and leads to successful blogs.
- Thinking that blogging income is passive. Some aspects of blog monetization are passive, but you still have to put in the effort to get to that point.
Optimization + Analytics
- Unfriendly URLs. Ask yourself what you want to see: mysite.com/?p=123 or mysite.com/new-story? Change your permalinks to something good for both visitors and search engines.
- Bad directory structure. Don’t put your blog in a directory off your main domain unless you need to. While you’re at – although this is debatable – don’t use dates in your URLs. They’re unnecessary and many search engine algorithms give URLs with more directory fragments less value. For example, mysite.com/new-story is better than mysite.com/blog/2007/10/09/new-story.
- Canonicalization problems. URL canonicalization problems refers to when you a page that can be accessed with different URLs. It might be the difference between a slash or no slash at the end (mysite.com/), with or with a www (www.mysite.com/), or hard file name (mysite.com/index.html). The net result is that you may have backlinks to that single conceptual page, from other sites, but to the different variations. That affects how that page will rank in search engines. To solve canonicalization issues, you need to redirect all variations to a single URL version. That’s typically done with 301 redirects in .htaccess or sometimes with blog platform plugins. If this is too technical for you, get a friend to help.
- Not analyzing visitor behavior. Use PMetrics, Google or whatever you like – but do analyze your blog visitors’ behavior and trends. That includes checking search terms, then writing more articles to match the most popular terms used to reach your site from search engines. Just don’t obsess over the daily numbers. Watch, aim for and analyze longer-term trends.
- Ignoring outside but important factors. There are some aspects of the blogosphere you can’t do anything about. Then there those you can. Be aware of ranking services such as Technorati, and then be proactive that they are updating your blog’s Authority regularly.
Promotion + Networking
- Partial-text RSS feeds. Not everyone wants to browse RSS feeds in partial-text mode. Bloggers who follow a lot of feeds tend to prefer full-text because it’s easy to scan a full article with minimal clicks and mouse usage.
- Not pinging blog directories. When you post an article, let the blogosphere know. There are several services such as Pingomatic and Technorati that will let you mass “ping” various blog directories and blog search engines. This increases your exposure online. (Note that most of the popular blogging platforms automatically ping Pingomatic when you post something new – even if date the post in the future.)
- Pushing one type of feed reader. If you’re using an RSS feed for your blog (and you should be), don’t just display a subscription button for one type of RSS reader. If you only have space for one option, make it something like Feedburner (but use a feed redirector plugin so that it still looks like a feed from your domain). Make it easy for visitors to subscribe.
- Not networking. You must have online friends to succeed. If you’re a wallflower, take a seminar on public speaking, meeting people, or whatever else you think will help.
- Not using social media. Social media is very important. Just writing good content is not enough. Promote your best articles on suitable sites that send traffic.
- Lack of patience. If you’ve found your topical passion, you probably have the motivation and passion to see it through. Giving up gets you nowhere. Good writing takes time and practice. Lack of patience sometimes leads to openly bad behavior.
- Openly insulting other bloggers. The blogosphere is a lot smaller than you think. Insulting bloggers or calling them out, or generally acting stupid online and generally misbehaving will backfire on you – possibly for longer than you’d expect. And this applies to saying things that people misinterpret as insults.
So now that you know these things, what are you waiting for? Go fix your blog.